Friday, December 08, 2017

Tis the Season (for kids events, that is...)

The last 10 have brought the typical December craziness of band concerts, orchestra concerts, taekwondo belt testing practice and gymnastic meets.  It feels like EVERYTHING happens in December and, while fun, its exhausting.

Up 1st - Billy's orchestra concert.  Unfortunately, Tracy had a work event that night (a Christmas choir concert with her organization glee club - super fun) so Tom was the lone parent.  It was a combined 7, 8 and 9th grade concert and Billy even brought his violin home to practice! This was the 1st time ALL YEAR that we've actually seen said violin so it was nice to know it exists. His group played 3 songs and did a lovely job.  Its always hard to see Billy because of height issues, but he seemed happy with this performance and he got to sit by his friends. What more can you ask for? Oh yeah, how about a trip to Chicago? Yep, the orchestra takes ALL kids, grades 7 and up to Chicago for a 5 day concert tour trip in May. He's super excited and we dont blame him!  Almost makes me wish I was in orchestra (almost).

And, coming in 2nd ... Jimmy had a band concert the same night Kay had her 1st gymnastics meet. Luckily they were both at the high school and "all" we had to do was run back and forth between the gym and auditorium.  Kay's started at 6pm and Jimmys at 6:30pm so it was almost do-able. We only had to miss 1 of Jimmys songs. There were a few interesting points in Jimmys concert. A) His band teacher didnt talk NEARLY as much between songs as he usually does, so it went pretty fast. B) most of our friends with kids in band were talking about how band this year seems really "easy" and all the kids are complaining that the music isnt hard enough.  Interesting... C) Jimmy's sax broke after the 1st song so he "faked" it, with facial expressions, fingering and movement.  I have to say, I was convinced he was playing. The band played 5 songs and were done in 25 minutes. Bravo!  Jimmy is considering this year his "test" year.  He is also playing the jazz band and the teacher knows that he can play drums and sax. But, in practice this week, another kid wanted to play drums so Jimmy said, "ok, then I'll play guitar". The teacher was floored - "you play guitar too?"  Yep.  Needless to say, he is now teachers pet. He figures he just needs to be consistently good and he'll be in the top try out band next year, at which point the music should get harder and he should be in with the other kids that are complaining about the music being too easy this year.  On top of that, he's thinking of going out for choir next year too. All these music groups go on concert tours so I also suspect the travel is intriguing a motivating factor. We dont care as along as he loves it and participates and gets better.  Wish I was 1/2 as talented.

Kay's meet was interesting.  We haven't posted too much about her decision to move from club gymnastics to high school but lets just say, its been a study in decision making and trade offs. On one hand, she wants to get better. On the other, she doesnt want the pressure of club and is tired of working so hard.  She was convinced that she could join high school, have fun and still get better. After the 2nd practice she came home and said "now I know why high school isnt as good as club. They dont have the same level of quality equipment, coaching and spotting".  Good observation.  Next, competitions. ... She gets majorly stressed out about competing and we are a bit worried since, with club, she only has 5-6 meets/year. In high school, its 16 meets.  Wednesday night, she was a mess.  Crabby, short and we were seriously worried about how much sleep she got.  But, she was up and ready to go early on Thursday.  She seemed to have fun at the meet and the vibe was definitely MUCH more relaxed than a club meet.  She took 2nd on bars and 3rd on beam (against Eden Prairie) and no one else on her team even placed. She fell off beam on her front aerial (which is damn scary) and looked a bit nervous on all events. BUT ... they were new routines with a new team a new coach and in a new competition format so we think she did great, given all that. Plus, now the 1st meet is behind her and she knows what to expect. We suspect she'll nail it in the next meet (next Friday). On the way home she said "our varsity team really isnt very good'.  Not sure what this means for her interest in continuing with High School past this year, if she'll go back to club or stick with High School. We just want her in gymnastics and to find a way to have fun but also deal with her stress/anxiety.   Wish us luck.

Check out the photos we got, not all are great but when you are moving a million miles per hour, its the best we can do:)

Her club teammates - friends for life

Team introductions

can you see Jimmys hair?

Warming up

Club BFF watching to support with club mom BFF

shaking out the nerves but looking cute and fit

The team!  2 are also from club and 1/2 from north jr high

Monday, November 27, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Gotcha Day Kay!

In one of those rare occurrences, Kays' Gotcha Day fell exactly on Thanksgiving and she took full advantage of the holiday and extra family around.

Tracy's sister (Tammy) and family make the trek from Michigan and arrived in time for dinner on Wednesday. Aunt Sue timed her trip perfectly as well and joined us in time for the 1st night of festivities!  We got unpacked, caught up and had a great time as Jimmy, Kay and Billy made their way home from sports practices.  Tom had smoked a pork and the BBQ pork sandwiches were amazing. The kids were SO excited to see their cousins and start their 4 day sleep over. Georgia was in Kay's room, Herbie and Joey in Billy's room, Sue in the guest room, Tammy and Jeff in Jimmy's room and Jimmy on the couch downstairs, everyone with a place and everyone in a place.

The 1st order of business was betting on the Viking/Lion game followed by a vigorous debate on if the MN/WI game was worth betting on (it wasnt).  With 2 Lions fans, 4 Packer fans and 2 Vikings fans, we had the weekend covered!  Throw in Michigan, Clemson, MN and WI fans and it was all football all the time.

Thursday was planned around the game and Kay's Gotcha Day. As tradition dictates, you get to choose your dessert on your Gotcha Day.  Well, being a baker, Kay chose to make 4 different kinds of  pies; apple crumble, apple pie, pecan and pumpkin. It was quite the feat.  Once the Vikings won (in a nail biter finish and a VERY loud house) we sent the kids outside to run off some steam and the 1st of many backyard football games with Jimmy as all time quarterback and Joey vs Billy and Herbie.  Tracy got seriously sick with a head cold/fever and was down for the count.  She hasn't gotten that sick in 10 years and it took us all by surprise. She rallied for dinner and a hazy recollection of football.

Friday was meant to be a volunteer project for the family through Tracy's work, unfortunately, none of the clients showed up:(  BUT...the kids werent deterred. they had contests on the in ground trampoline and climbing racings on the swing set.  These kids are nothing if not competitive. We forgot to take pictures but they were having a gas. Then it was a basketball game (Jimmy/Herbie vs Billy/Joey) and more football.  Tracy felt a ton better and sort of wondered what happened the day before.  Weird.  It was MN High School Football playoffs that night so Tom, Jeff, Joey and Jimmy headed to US Bank stadium to see Minnetonka play Eden Prairie, it was a good game and a great way to see the Super Bowl Stadium on a reasonable ticket.  Tammy, Georgia, Herbie, Kay and Billy went to see Wonder. Tracy and Sue stayed home to catch up on The Middle and Modern Family as they both have an aversion to crying in public.

Saturday was more football (MI vs OH) and Sue catching Tracys cold and being down for the count.  Tracy felt TERRIBLE that Sue caught it. Poor Sue.  The kids played more football and dinner was make your own pizza's followed by Elf and The Sound of Music. Strangely no one besides us had seen either in their entirety.  Elf is one of our favorite holiday movies and it sets the tone for the whole season (I like smiling, its my favorite. Francisco, thats fun to say. Santa, I KNOW him! What did I sing you on your birthday?!)

Unfortunately, despite staying up late Saturday night, Sunday finally came and everyone had to leave. Luckily Sue was feeling way better and was able to drive home.  Tammy's family faced the murderous 9 + hour trip home but managed to get home in time for the Packer game (damn that last field goal!).

It was TOO much fun, the kids love each other and get along great, its easy, relaxed and exactly what a holiday should be. Can't wait to repeat in 1 month at Tammy's house. The bonus there will be our parents and Julie and the boys will be there too! Yeah!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!
Day 1 of football

The real thing

Covering some distance

The gang, Jimmy, Tammy, Jeff, Tracy, Tom, Sue, Herbie, Kay, Georgia, Billy and Joey

Kay getting help from Georgia and Herbie on the pie making

pumpkin, pecan, apple and apple


make your own pizzas! a big hit

Happy pizza kids

The hills are alive!!

chilling and cuddling

under the rug to take full advantage of the heated floor, 3 bugs in a rug

an empty house;(

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Taekwondo (aka Billy) Update

Ok, who knew that taekwondo season was in the fall? Not us! In fact, if we had we may have reconsidered having a kid in football and one in tkd.  Its been NUTS!

Now that Billy is competing at the black belt level, we've "graduated" to a travel meet schedule. This fall has already taken us to Chicago, Florida and South Dakota.  January is Vegas and that doesnt include the local meets which happen about every 6 weeks. Tracy has handled all the travel tournaments and is exhausted.  Nothing like sitting on a bleacher for 8+ hours waiting to see your kid compete for 4 1/2 minutes.  Riveting balanced with complete boredom.  Good thing the tkd families are super fun and everyone gets along famously (we HAVE to, we'd go crazy otherwise!)

Not only is this his 1st year competing at the black belt level but he's also in the 12-14 age group (just turning 13 next month) and little (feather weight at 90 lbs and only 4'9").  This means he's constantly competing against kids that are bigger, older and have more experience. Its been a tough year but he's a fighter. Literally.  His size doesnt play much into his pomsea competitions with the exception that he's learning all new forms at the black belt level BUT ... it makes a HUGE difference in sparring where they are now allowed to do head kicks since they are black belts. When your competitor has 4-8 inches on you and 10-15 lbs over you, thats a big advantage (for your competition!).  Billy has stepped up to the challenge and is giving it his all. He never backs down, takes his points where he can get them, is very coachable and open to learning and most of all... a great sport. He always says nice match and figures out what he can learn from the match. His coaches adore him as he's an amazingly smart, technical and strategic fighter. He's precise, thoughtful and has quick reflexes.  In fact, his coach says he's right where he wants him - getting better with every meet, learning new skills, getting more flexible and stronger and resilient. He's "the whole package" and all anyone wants him to do is grow 6 inches.  Thats all.  If only that were in our control:)

Billy continues to love tkd, his team, his coaches, his friends, learning new skills and getting stronger.  He's a true warrior and we are so proud of him!!

Waiting for your next event is the hardest part.

I wish they were talking about tkd strategy but I suspect it was NBA results and video game hacks.

His official black belt certificate
The 1st place winner - Ross - was coaching another team member in their event and couldn't make the photo - love that they have the kids coach each other - great learning!

Joseph photo bombed - Grandma and Grandpa came to see him compete in Chicago. Much appreciated and fun!


Billys Buddies - Esa, Isaac, Augie, Joseph, Ian and Jacqueline - Rogers kids

The full TKD crew!

Watching Marvel movies in the hotel with Ian, Isaac and Lori.

Billy coaching against Ace's coaching with 2 of the kids he fought and lost to.  Billys kid won.
Tournament of champions 2nd place weapons

Ace and Billy, bringing home the hardware

At the Million Kicks for Cancer Fundraiser - wearing his pink dolbak in honor of breast cancer warriors

Es and Billy's prom picture

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Football- The Year that never was

Jimmy # 86 spent hundreds of hours in the gym from February through June lifting weights, increasing his speed and agility, conditioning all in preparation for this years football season.The one thing he could not train for was not being an upper class-man.

The practises started and the coaches implemented a point system to determine who would be the starters in many of the key positions. Jimmy was bound and determined to be the starting H, or tight-end. He was 12 points ahead of his any other kids in that position and was super excited. He is very aggressive when it comes to football and there was no way he was going to let anyone beat him. So that's when we ran into the first of many problems. He was told because he was only a Sophomore he would not be starting. I give Jimmy credit for saying to his coach " Let me get this straight, even though you had us go through all these tests and goals and even though I won everyone one of them I am not starting because I am a Sophomore?" His position coach said that was the decision the head coach made. To that Jimmy replied then why did you lie to me? I would not have done one thing different in any of these drills even if I new I wasn't going to start" That was how the whole season went.

Jimmy played his heart out in every game, practice and scrimmage. He played only 6 plays of defense the whole year resulting in 3 sacks, 2 rushed passes, and a fumbled recovered for 20 yards, then the coaches decided to not play him on defense any more... it was very frustrating and confusing.
Then the coaches invite him to come to the varsity film session to prepare for the upcoming game which is great. They spend the week practicing Jimmy playing tightened and slot receiver until game day when they tell him they have changed the game plan and he will not be playing and because he didn't go to the JV game he will be benched.... so for the first home game of his varsity career he had to stand on the side lines and watch...he was not happy. Once again he took to his caused and asked the coaches " what should I be doing to get more play time?" They replied go to the JV games.

JV had the best record in the whole Hopkins football program and finished 5 wins 3 losses, prior to this year the JV team had only one 2 games ,where was Jimmy? On defense sacking the QB, plugging up the middle of the line and tacking running backs, in the backfield tacking the fullback for a loss. He was returning kick offs, playing running back, catching passes making first downs and even a 15 yard touchdown run! He had two games where he over 200 all  purpose yards.

Back to Varsity where the coaches took notice and spent the entire team working plays with Jimmy at running back, he was once again coerced over to the dark side. He would come home from practice on cloud 9 ...'I'm going to start at full back' and he did, for 2 plays then the coach freaked out and completely changed the game plan 5 minutes into the game and once again Jimmy was shaking his head. This is how the season went.

Finally it was the play-offs, Hopkins was 1-7 going into the play-off season and Jimmy's view was " well Dad all we need is four straight upsets to make it to the championship!" Positive attitude, great kid. Jimmy did play quite a bit in the playoff game and came away with a great outlook, mindset for next season. The final game was in the snow with 30 mph winds and he got a ton of play time. He came home super excited "I've waited my whole life to play in the snow and I LOVE it!!  I cant wait until next season!" While he was not happy with the way the season went (mainly because of coaching) is looking forward to next season with enthusiasm. This year was 1-8, next year is in the making.

The Football banquet was like all those types of events 3 hours long with lots of inside jokes and pranks. The high lights, Jimmy received a letter award and an award for maintaining a higher than 3.0 grade point during the season, way to go!

Jimmy also made a highlight film which is below and low and behold the High School scouts found his film and were very impressed, especially with his defense and asked him where the rest of his defense film was, and since the coaches decided to not play him after the first couple of games he replied, I spent the remainder of the season focusing on offense. The good news is they have identified him as an athlete, they think he has a ton of potential, they are impressed with his weight lifting strength and speed and will be watching him.

Hopefully, next year, he'll play positions on both offense and defense. So all in all a pretty decent Sophomore year!

So the day after the banquet where was Jimmy, back in the gym training and getting ready for next season, where else!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Wow, how did a whole month go by without a blog?!

There isnt any excuse except we are horribly busy.   On a brighter note, we have been fairly good about posting quick updates on FaceBook so you should be relatively caught up.

But .., for propriety, we'll get a quick catch up and run down...

Tom - even though he's scheduled for 30 hrs/week at work, he's been putting in 37+.  They are short staffed and he's been filling in for others in classrooms, late start, days off, etc.  He's loving the kids at school, again, and the weather has been pretty cooperate for really nice fall days and outside recess.  On top of that, he's main chauffeur for gymnastics and tried to hit as many of Jimmys football games (varsity and JV) as he could. Then, there is the matter of fall yard work and such.  He also just finished a 10 week weight loss/get in shape challenge and lost 13 lbs. Really proud of him but we are all sort of sick of hearing about fiber.  (Even Kay had to tell him not to bring up the fiber conversation when her friends are around). He continues to feed us well and we are so spoiled with all his meal creations.

Jimmy - the main problem with football season is ... football.  Tom will give a season recap but suffice to say that he played great this season in both the JV and Varsity games (practices every school day and games 2 days per week). He would have liked more Varsity play time but he's only a sophomore, that will come. Then, you have the Vikings and weekly line ups.  He's in a fantasy league with the Kims and its pretty cut throat. Did we also mention he's taking a super tough course load with AP US History (APUSH) which gives him 2+ hours of homework a night, Pre-Calc, Sociology (he loves it!), gym and band.  Then, jazz band just started and is 2 days/week before school starts.  No wonder the kid is tired!  He had a girl friend for the 1st 2 months but they are on a break.  They were good friends before they started dating and recently realized that being friends was probably a better idea. Let's hope that they can stay friends.

Kay - gymnastics, school work but...those aren't even the most important things in Kay's life right now. Friends are the #1,2 & 3 priority.  There are weekly sleep overs, hanging out after school, before practice. Runs to Starbucks. Instagram feeds to keep up and YouTube videos to watch.  Its been a rough start of the school season with her. She's finding it hard to balance and we are trying to help her out. Unfortunately, she's not the type that welcomes help.  Then, add in the face that she's grown 6 inches in the last 6 months and is about to hit puberty and ...let's just say we never know what we are walking into each time we come home. But, when she does manage to show up, she's as wonderful and brilliant as ever (its just not as frequent as we'd like)

Billy - now that he's a black belt the competition season is intense. We've had a tournament every other weekend and now he's expected to travel. We've been to Chicago, this weekend is Florida and in 2 weeks is South Dakota. These are on top of the MN tournaments. In January he's even been invited to Vegas. We shall see. He's really liking 7th grade and is doing well, not that we get much out of him. He's not a big talker. He goes to TKD 6 days/week and seems really happy with his friends and teachers.

Tracy - wow, staring a new job is overwhelming both in terms of time and mental energy.  Every night my brain explodes and I fall into a dead sleep with incredibly vivid dreams. It is SO different than Target. I'm loving it but it takes all my concentration to just keep up with my team on a daily and hourly basis.  Then, I'm in charge of TKD car pooling and all tournament travel.  Its fun to be with Billy and he's the calm, peaceful, zen being I need to be around right now to calm my brain down.  I'm still walking Nikki on a daily basis and it's a great way to center before each day starts.  Part of my job involves public "appearances" and so I have at least 1 event each week thats on the weekends or at night. I actually really enjoy these and they tend to be great reminders on why we do what we do.

Nikki - she's got it made. Daily walks, love from Billy, naps on the couch.  She's even lost a bit of weight now that we replaced some of her food with green beans (fiber fiber fiber ...)

So, life is life. Good, hectic, fun, exhausting, frustrating, emotional, happy, peaceful and chaotic.

We are blessed.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Many Happy Returns of the Day Tom!

Sunday was Tom's birthday and we did our best to make it the most fun, most relaxing and happiest day of his year. Not sure we succeeded but it was a damn good day.

We had a few key gifts planned (new book and new camera lens) and football games to watch.

Thankfully the Vikings kicked some butt and won. Then, in an extra bonus overtime, so did the Packers!! (ok, not sure Tom's excited about the Packers winning but I am!!)

I also mowed the lawn so that he could enjoy the game uninterrupted (wife of the year, I know...)

He was able to go to the club and work out and... had the dinner of his choice.  Lamb chops, creamy risotto and fresh green beans. I was in charge of the beans and risotto (my specialty) and he did the lamb. Needless to say it was amazing and I stumped him with my secret risotto ingredient. He couldn't figure out what it was but Kay did on 1st bite (spoiler alert, sr cream in risotto adds extra creaminess and bit of bite that the lamb needed)

Then we compared favorite stories from the year and our favorite birthdays.

Tom's favorites from the past year....
~ Him going back to work full time
~ Tracy getting a new job
~ Jimmy getting his drivers license
~ Kay getting 2nd in regionals on beam
~ Billy getting 2nd in nationals in sparring

Overall a pretty damn impressive year.

On the subject of favorite birthdays, he picked some classics ...
~ his 40th complete with a new fishing boat, photo shopped pictures from high school with Tracy in each one and staying up with friends and family until 4am
~ Jimmy's 5th birthday in Bangalore when everyone came dressed as spider man
~ Kay's 11th birthday and the live auction (enough said...)
~ Billy's 3rd birthday where he had a Cars cake and wouldn't let anyone touch it, he loved it too much
~ Tracy's most memorable but probably not favorite was when she turned 6 and her parents threw her presents into the way back of the station wagon as they drove to Disney World for a week, in June...

Tom, its so fun celebrating YOU! Thanks for all you do, who you are and what you mean to us.

We love you!!! OXOXOXOXOX

Jays class picture next to her former year pictures 


Billy's class photo 

Kay refusing to get her photo take + my cute boys

Jimmys class photo

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Watch out world, there is 1 new driver in your midst!

Yes, a major milestone and hurdle to adulthood, James Michael Lee Murphy is now a licensed driver.'

It was a bit of an ordeal but he got there.

A bit of context, getting a behind the wheel appointment in the Twin Cities is like trying to get an audience with the pope. It take forever and you need to have connections and do favors.  Since we didnt want him missing school and he didnt want to miss football, it left us precious few options for his test. In fact, it meant that Tracy and Jimmy drove to Winona in late August for the 1st attempt (foreshadowing, you can see where this is going...). Its a 2 12/ hour drive, the did it in the dark, through road construction and Tracy made Jimmy drive.  They had a wonderful chat about football, school and life and encountered some harrowing fog and windy hilly river roads but they made it!

The next morning, after some last minute rules of the road cramming and texting with a friend from Korean camp that is learning to drive in Winona,  they were up and headed to the drivers station.  It did not look good. The instructor was flustered, crabby and might have been hung over.  It didnt go well.  While Tracy waited with bated breath, Jimmy came in shaking his head and downtrodden, he didnt pass.  What really killed him was that it wasnt one thing. It was a point off here and there and a mandate to practice for another week and try again.  UGHHH!! It would have been better if he crashed or hit the pylon during parking.  But the slow no was killing him. Lets just leave it at ... the ride home sucked.

So, back to the drawing board to find a time to retest and back at practicing parallel parking and driving.  For the 2nd test, we were insistent that he use the Pilot as its going to be the car he drives. But, this is infinitely harder to park than the Insight (which he used in the 1st test).  Needless to say, the next 2 weeks were full of practice, frustration, minor moments of hope and building anxiety that he might not pass his second time either (on our part, for his part he figured "I've already passed once, i just need to do it again" the kid does not lack confidence...)

We found a 10am appointment in Chaska (30 min away) but it meant he'd have to miss gym. We were ok with that compromise. Now, the argument, who's going to take him. As the brilliant young man he is, he refused to choose between Mom or Dad.  Mom wanted Dad to do it because she still has PSD from the 1st attempt. Dad is steering clear and is actually scheduled to work at that time.  So, Mom it is, a second time.

Tracy heads to school to pick him up at 9am with a sinking feeling in her stomach and on the verge of heartburn with all her nerves.  The drive home will be a disaster if he doesnt pass this time.

As she pulls into school, kids are streaming out ... a fire drill!  They manage to find each other and off they go. Jimmy driving and getting warmed up.

The testing center is WAY more welcoming and there are many parent/kid combo sitting nervously around. Jimmy has, of course, researched this site and quizzed all his friends that have tested here. Its an open course and he's feeling confident.  The instructor comes out and has a big smile on his face.  A much more auspicious start than that 1st!  As Tracy is waiting, she's visiting with other parents and most are here for their 2nd or 3rd attempt. We are in good company.

Jimmy comes back - all smiles, thumbs up and excited. He passed!  His instructor even commented that his 1st attempt was a marginal fail.  They did the parking part 1st and while his parallel parking was ugly, it was effective (life hack, he turned his side mirror way down so that he could see the curb) In an interesting turn of events, as he was parallel parking, there was a fender bender 1/2 block away. The instructor got on the phone to call 911 and Jimmy was wondering if it was all a staged part of his test, to see what he'd do in an accident and emergency vehicle situation. It was real life however, he stayed calm, navigated the police cars and passed with flying colors!!

Jimmy, we are so proud of you ! You worked hard, persevered and did it!

His 1st outing driving alone?  GameStop to put money down on a new game...typical kid.

XOXOX Love you Jimmy!!
Filling out the paperwork for his license

He did it!